Two drownings in Russian River prompt urgent safety appeal
2 mins read

Two drownings in Russian River prompt urgent safety appeal

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — In North Bay, there’s an urgent plea from Russian River Valley lifeguards — they’re telling people not to go into the river without a life jacket if you can’t swim. The plea comes days after two people drowned in the Russian River just a week ago.

“We handle thousands of people, on Saturday when the second drowning occurred, we had 2,000,” said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman.

Chief Baxman says Russian River beaches were crowded last week for the July 4 holiday, when temperatures reached triple digits.

But tragedy struck, with two people drowning in separate incidents on the river on Wednesday and Saturday. Search and rescue crews were on duty, searching the area around Monte Rio, where the water can be 30 feet deep in some places. The circumstances of the deaths are still under investigation.

MORE: Pediatrician lists water safety mistakes to avoid as drownings rise

“We tell people: please, if you can’t swim, don’t go in the water. If you can’t swim, wear a life jacket, a board won’t help you, and if you fall over, you’re done for,” Baxman said.

Near the Monte Rio public beach, there are signs warning of dangers on the river in English and Spanish.

“Secondly, if you are going to drink, don’t swim, alcohol doesn’t help at all,” Baxman said.

Siobhan Kelly of Alameda enjoys a day at the beach with friends, but takes some precautions.

“We always make sure someone knows where you are in case you need help, especially if there’s no lifeguard or anyone to watch over you,” Kelly said.

MORE: Sonoma County crews find body of teen who went missing while swimming in Russian River

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said there have been four drownings on the Russian River this year, with a total of 31 deaths since 2019.

The staff at Monte Rio Public Beach will lend you a life jacket for free for the day if you need one.

“Anyone who is on the beach and needs a beach can rent one for free. It’s all about safety, you never know what might happen,” said Patrick Atkinson of the Monte Rio Parks and Recreation Department.

With warmer days approaching, the boss advises: have fun on the river, but be careful.

“Go out and have fun, but be careful, that’s what I’m asking you – be careful, use your head,” Baxman said.

Two drownings in Russian River prompt urgent safety appeal

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.